Is There an Epidemic of Narcissism Today?
Meet the most narcissistic generation ever.
Posted May 08, 2009
Josh Foster (of the University of South Alabama) and I are releasing a study today showing that narcissistic traits are increasing even faster than we previously thought. From 2002 to 2007, college students' scores on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) rose twice as fast as we'd found in an earlier study that covered changes between 1982 and 2006. (The NPI measures narcissistic traits among the normal population, not necessarily rising to the level of a clinical diagnosis).
The increase in narcissism was stronger for women than for men in both datasets. Men are still more narcissistic than women on average, but women are catching up fast. This makes some sense, as a lot of the cultural push toward narcissism (see below) has a bigger effect on girls and women.
Then there's the shocking data recently released by researchers from the National Institutes of Health. They surveyed a nationally representative sample of 35,000 Americans about symptoms that can add up to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), the more severe, clinical form of the trait. They asked if someone had ever experienced these symptoms in their lifetime, so you'd expect that older people would have a much higher rate than younger people since they've lived more years. However, the data go the opposite direction: Only 3% of people over 65 had ever experienced NPD, compared to nearly 10% of people in their twenties. It's possible that older people forgot some symptoms from earlier in their lives, but that would have to be a large amount of forgetting to account for this big a discrepancy. With almost 1 out of 10 people in their twenties already experiencing NPD, it's sobering to realize how high that number might go in the coming decades.
So the whole society has become more narcissistic - not just the people, but our entire value system.